Wanting pain to stop is not the same as wanting to die. One may lead to the other, but if there are other options to stop the pain, I believe most people would choose them over dying. Other than giving birth to my two 9lb+ babies and passing kidney stones, my head has caused me the most pain.
I get migraines, well, they are not the typical migraines, but they are very bad headaches that can last for days. They started when I was eleven, I was in grade 5 and I remember thinking there must be something dreadfully wrong with me. They can be so painful and exhausting, that when I have one I want to cut my head off. I used to say this and people would laugh, or pat me on the back and say something like ‘just take an aspirin and lay down for while’ or ‘take a bath’ or ‘have you tried_______ (trust me, I have tried everything)?’ So now I try not to talk about them. Actually, I try to avoid them if at all possible. And if I do say something, it is usually a few days into it, and I can’t hide it anymore.
I know a lot of people suffer from pain that is more debilitating than my headaches, and maybe I even have a low threshold for pain, but that doesn’t make them any more bearable for me. Sometimes it feels like there is a vice around my head that is slowly being tightened. Other times the pain radiates from the base of my skull where I feel like someone just whacked me with a cast iron pan. Everything from my jaw and teeth to my throat and even to my stomach, begin to ache under the pressure, eventually leaving me nauseous and weak. And if one lasts long enough, it feels like my eyes are being forced out of their sockets under the pressure. When I lay in bed, I imagine how I could sever my head from my neck. Would I do it at the base of my skull or at the level of the shoulders? What kind of force would be required? I never want to actually do this, but I never want a headache either.
As I have said before, pain is pain. Emotional or physical, they both hurt. They are both unmeasurable. They are exhausting and can be all consuming. What helps one person may not help the next. What is tolerable to one is excruciating to the next.
So I imagine that when a person is in so much pain and they are not able to see an end to it, dying begins to look like a solution. I imagine this is the kind of pain that someone is in when they commit suicide. Pain that no one seems to understand. No one knows how hard they tried to stop it, but nothing helped or it didn’t last. There is no pill or therapy or magic potion that has sufficiently taken away their pain. So they don’t want to die, but they need the pain to stop.
I wonder if we change the conversation around suicide, by helping people
***If you or someone you know is in pain, please take it seriously. There are crisis lines, therapists, doctors and support networks of all kinds, look for them, reach out. If the first place you look doesn’t have what you need, try the next until you find what’s right for you. In my experience, when we are able to reach out, we are often pleasantly surprised at how quickly a situation can change.